Passionate Organizing

Decide how you want to organise your photographs

Without a system, you’ll just get a list of meaningless file names. The longer this goes on, the harder it will be for you to find the photos that you want.

You’ve got to have a system – a way of organising – one that suits you. I choose to organise my photos by event – but you could do it by date, by family member or by whatever is meaningful to you.

Under ‘My Pictures’ on my hard drive, I have four sub-folders – Family, Business, Holidays and ‘The Best’. The first three are self-explanatory; ‘The Best’ is where I keep images of which I’m particularly proud.

Create mirror images on both your computer and photo album

People love traditional prints so no matter how proud you may be of your computer skills, to really share your photos with friends and family, you’ll need physical prints to pass around. And to get the most from your memories you should have a single system that runs across both.

Once you’ve decided on your system – use the same categories on both your computer and your physical photo album.

Taking your photos

Snap away happily but don’t carry around useless photographs on your camera or waste your time downloading them before deciding to bin them. As soon as you’ve taken photographs have a quick look at them and dump the ones that don’t look special. Be ruthless and immediate.

Beginning Studio Lighting

First of all, you must decide what types of lights to purchase. There are two basic types: Tungsten or Strobes. Tungsten lights are continuous photofloods, which tend to generate a lot of heat. Strobes are flash units. I personally use strobes and really like them. More specifically, I use the Alien Bees B800’s. I love these lights and find them really easy to use. Your strobes will come with something called a “modeling light.” This modeling light is there to allow you to see where your light will be. It goes off when you fire the strobe, and comes on again a second later, letting you know that the strobes are ready to be fired again. The modeling light gives off very little heat compared to the tungsten lights.

Whatever brand you decide to purchase, make sure that they will allow for lighting accessories such as softboxes and umbrellas, barndoors (plates that attach to the front of your lights) and snoots (a long tube – most often used as a hair light). These accessories enable you to control where the light goes. The manufacturer of the lights you choose will more than likely also sell light stands, which you will also need.

You can get started with as little as one light, but make sure that you have some sort of reflector to provide fill light. Reflectors are available from professional camera shops (online or off), but a large piece of white foamboard or cardboard will do the trick as well (and is much less expensive). After your business gets going and you can afford more lighting, you can add a fill light, a hair light and some background lighting as well. You will need umbrellas or softboxes to go with your main and fill lights.

Main Light: The primary lighting

Fill Light: Fills in the shadows created by the main light

Hair Light: Separates the hair from the background

Where should you place your lights? Generally speaking, the closer the lights to the subject, the more harsh the lighting. The further away you place your lights from the subject, the more diffused the lighting will be. When using my main light with a softbox, I generally place the main light approximately 4 to 5 feet away from my subject (slightly above the subject’s eye level) and off to the right of the camera. I place my fill light slightly further back (on the subject’s eye level) and on my left. Remember, your subject should be at least 4 to 5 feet away from the background to reduce shadows. If you are using a hair light, it should be above and behind the subject’s head…but experiment with it to find the placement you like best. You will definitely need to use either barndoors or a snoot for your hair light to keep it from shining into the camera’s lens.

For portraiture, you will want to use a lighting ratio of 3:1, meaning that your main light is approximately 1-2/3rds f-stops brighter (or stronger) than the fill light. A 2:1 ration means that your main light is 1 stop stronger than the fill light. The hair light should be one stop stronger than your main light. The same goes for background lighting if you want a bright white background. This is another reason I like my alien bees so much: they are really easy to adjust. You can simply move a switch on the back of each light to set it, and it is easy to get that 3:1 or 2:1 ratio. You will want to keep the room lighting (table lamps, overhead lights, etc.) to a minimum.

For my set up (I use the Canon 20D and the alien bees B800’s), I set my camera to 250 and 13, my main light at ¼ power, and my fill light at 1/16 power and I get great results. I would recommend just playing around with your settings until you find the ones that work.

We’ve covered the basics here, but you still may want to invest in a good book on studio lighting to further your knowledge.

Props For Studio

Some of my favorite props have been and 1890s tricycle, a 1910 iron and wood sleigh, a white wicker sleigh/bassinette and a couple of faux marble columns. The wicker sleigh made it easy to prop up wobbly babies and when leveled with foam and a blanket, supplied a nice base for tummy shots. Of course we couldn’t do without the ubiquitous baseball.

The marble columns came plain white plastic so I painted them to simulate real marble. First I prepared four buckets with white, light gray, darker gray and black water paint. Latex is fine. I placed the bare column on a large plastic sheet and quickly painted one side of the column with the white paint. A handy hose set at fine mist then wets down the
Wet paint. Applications of the light and dark gray latex and sprayed with water allows the colors to blend naturally. After all sides are completed, a feather dipped in black latex and drawn randomly along the surface supplies the final touch. A c oat of clear acrylic will protect the surface for many years.

For Communions, I cut a 30 inch circle out of heavy cardboard. Making an X from two rectangular pieces of cardboard, I stapled the circle on top, creating an instant round table. Cutting a piece of white Dacron for a table cloth that just reaches the ground results in beautiful natural folds. On top can be placed a bouquet of flowers, a candle, missal or white gloves and placed in the near background of the Communion picture.

One prop that has many uses is white nylon tulle. Used to cover flower arrangements, antique boxes or any accessories in the background, it imparts to these artifacts a smoky ethereal atmosphere. The lowered contrast and softening of detail allows more emphasis to be placed on the main subject while adding interest to the composition. The white tulle is especially effective on a near white background. Large amounts of tulle can represent clouds or water.

For a rustic look, several four foot weathered barn boards can make a country look background for children’s head shots. This easily made prop can be stored in a small area. A small section of white picket fence can be part of a beach scene or a Huckleberry country look. An eighteen inch long log with rough bark provides a handy place for young feet or to straddle. A taller log is handy for resting elbows and log sitting.

Selecting Good Stock Photography

High speed Internet connections. CD’s. Searchable Archives. Royalty-free stock. These elements have changed the face of communication design forever. The quality, quantity, affordability and accessibility of stock imagery have made it the resource of choice for many organizations.

The advantages of instantaneous access to searchable archives of good images are numerous.

  • Speed :: We can never have enough of it. Search. Download. Import. It’s remarkable.
  • Choice :: Searching “stock photography” on Google delivers 1,470,000 results. You can find pretty much anything out there.
  • Price :: While there are free resources, unless you are doing a school report, you may need something slightly more exclusive. Also, many of the free images are only good enough for online display and the selection is very limited. Royalty-free images are reasonably priced, you pay for only the size you’ll use and images can be used as needed with no extra charges.
  • Flexibility :: Image selections can be grouped, saved and emailed to others in the review cycle. People in different locations can simultaneously review ideas.
  • Archiving :: Some companies even keep a record of your buys that you can re-download whenever you need them. To use this resource effectively, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.
  • Plan ahead :: Will you ever need the picture to be printed? The low cost of “low resolution” images can lure you into costly mistakes. Images need to be 300 dpi (dots per inch) at the size they will be printed.
  • Low-cost tradeoff :: Pictures are now so affordable, everyone’s buying them. That means your image could show up in your competitor’s brochure. Some projects call for more exclusive imagery.
  • Image-enhancement :: When you need something totally unique, such as your product in the shot, it may be more economical to hire a photographer than to have your designer spend countless hours in Photoshop trying to get it just right.
  • Availability :: Good images still cost money. While many firms have images on file, don’t expect your designer to have a database full of images right for your project.

When searching on the web, search for “stock photography” rather than doing an image search in Google or another search engine. Google returns all images from the web — including those that are the property of others and not legally usable.

Take Better Photos of Your Baby or Toddler

When I had my first baby 4 years ago, I became extremely interested in photography. I wanted to capture every precious moment and every important milestone on film. I am sure you are just like me in wanting to take these same precious photos of your baby or toddler. I now use a digital camera and take professional looking photos everyday of my 2 little boys from these simple tips below. These 5 tips will help you take better baby and toddler photos.

  • I suggest is to be aware of the lighting. The best place to take photos is outside in a natural setting. You should take photos early in the morning or late in the evening right before the sun sets. Remember to use your flash for fill flash outside. This lighting produces stunning results!
  • I suggest is to get closer to your baby or toddler and get down to their level. Never photograph your baby or toddler from above.
  • I suggest is to make the setting/background simple. Try to place your child near a simple or plain background.
  • I suggest is to take lots and lots of photos. The more photos you take, the more photos you will have to choose from. You may just get lucky with an adorable one of a kind photo of your baby! You may capture the perfect moment! So, never stop taking pictures!
  • Invest in a good digital camera. It doesn’t have to be an expensive digital camera. You can buy a good digital camera for under $300. I use an inexpensive Kodak digital camera and great photos of my baby every time.

You are now on your way to taking better baby and toddler photos.

Photographing Kids

Making The Unusual Usual

Friends with children often say to me “My child always pulls faces for the camera and I can’t get a picture without little Johnny sticking his tongue out and crossing his eyes.” Kids –and many adults as well– are prone to hamming it up for the camera, however, they will be more natural if the camera is a part of their everyday life instead of brought out once or twice a year. By making it a regular part of their lives, it will increase the comfort level and encourage portraits that are more natural. Try bringing out the camera once or twice a week and focusing it on your kids. They will become accustomed to having it around and it will give you a chance to practice your technique, too. And, if they still clown around for the camera, get into the swing of things and enjoy it. Little monkey faces are a part of childhood!

Kids’ Eye View

As adults, we look one another in the eye and photograph our friends at eye level. Do the same for your children. Bend down on one knee or sit on the floor to get a picture that reflects a child’s perspective. To add a little excitement, have fun playing with perspective by shooting the image from the ground up. Lie down on the ground and taking a picture from that viewpoint. Suddenly toddlers become giants and we can witness the world as they see it, by looking up.

Patience, Patience!

Small children have a limit of two or three minutes before they become bored with Mummy or Daddy’s photo session. The urge to run off and play becomes just too much! Don’t force kids to stay in one place for long, unless you like pictures of sullen little faces. If you are taking a formal portraiture-style photo be sure to plan ahead for the best possible results. Check your batteries, make sure there is film in the camera and if you are using a digital camera see that there is space on the memory card. Provide your toddler or small child with a prop, like a ball or a favorite toy to help create a more natural expression, instead of the one that says, “Just hurry up and take my picture, Mom!” Keep it fun and stress-free.

Fill The Frame

Because backgrounds can sometimes be distracting, do not be afraid to move in closer and take a picture of your angel’s face. It creates drama and interest in the photograph and eliminates extra clutter. Unless you are taking a travel photo or an image of the child engaged in a particular activity, feel free to emphasize the most important element of the picture- your child. Use the zoom or macro tool on the camera to get in closer. Pictures of your little one’s hands or feet can also be interesting studies, and one day you may find yourself saying, “I can’t believe they were so tiny!”

Just A Little Off-Centre

Many professional photographers use “The Rule Of Thirds” approach which means that they mentally divide the frame into three sections both vertically and horizontally –like a tic-tac-toe grid– and place the subject of the photo at one of these intersecting points. It helps to create a more dynamic photograph, than one where the subject is smack-dab in the middle. Take note that if your camera is an auto-focus model, you may have to focus first on your subject and then, with the shutter button still half-pressed, recompose the image.

Natural Light Rules!

One of the tricks of the trade in photography is to use morning or late afternoon light. The sunlight at this time is wonderful and helps to produce pictures that are bathed in warmth. Direct light flatters the subject and adds to a more intimate and natural-looking photograph. It also helps to greatly reduce the bane of every parent photographer- red eye!

Experiment with taking advantage of the sunlight pouring through a window, or march the kids outside on a sunny day and photograph them while they are playing tag. To have a well-lit photograph make sure the light is behind you, shining on the subject. To create drama, try using side light for impressive shading. If you try to take a photo with the sunlight behind your children, a technique known as “backlighting”, you will end up with the subject looking like a dark silhouette.

Flash Photo Albums

Wondershare Flash SlideShow Builder is a powerful easy-to-use utility to create stunning Flash slideshows from your still photo images, complete with music, photo motion & transition effects and special photo album templates. With this Flash Slideshow software, you can take your own digital photos and music, and easily turn them into an engaging Flash slide show or Flash photo album in minutes to share your special memories with your friends and family.

Key Features:

  • A wide variety of slideshow transition & photo motion effects for your customization.
  • Real time and flexible preview on every step.
  • Rich and professional templates to make your slideshow more lively. And they are absolutely free for you to download.
  • Integrate with photo browsing function.
  • Reduce Flash File Size.
  • Photo Editing and Optimizing.
  • Publish your Flash slideshows as SWF, HTML, EXE file for easily sharing.
  • Very easy to use, no Flash experience required!

Album Creator Pro is the unique software to create digital photo album in Flash and HTML image galleries. It combines plenty of useful features such as an incredible amount of customization, intuitive interface, FTP support, possibility to enhance your photos. And on the top of that we give you a great chance to be truly creative – to compose albums with exclusive design.

Amara Flash Photo Slide show Software is a Flash album creator to help the web designer to create and design animated Flash slide-shows. The software is compatible with all popular graphic file and audio formats. Amara Flash Slideshow Builder allows you to design compelling animated Flash photo galleries from your digital camera pictures. It saves your settings. All your personal settings for pictures, URL links, colors, & sound are automatically loaded the next time. And you can also easily change and update them. Amara Flash slide show builder is extremely user-friendly. The user interface guides you through the quick and easy steps and you will understand how it works immediately.

Female Form Photography

Female form photography is almost as it suggests. It is the capturing of the female form image while she poses for photographic purposes. There are many competent photographers today with established photography businesses specializing in different modes of female form photography. These modes include both commercial and artistic strands, often both in one.

As indicated earlier, female photography is an evergreen topic of interest for men mostly. But just why is it so popular even after so many centuries?? By now, it seems almost all poses and art expressions of a woman have been captured by the camera. However, it is still in vogue! These are the probable reasons for the sustenance of the female form photography:

  • A woman’s body has been a symbol of reverence for men. A woman has always stood for beauty, truth and purity beyond the reach of men. Capturing those delicate moments in a single expression creates ripples in the photography market.
  • The next obvious reason for the added interest is the physical attraction that men have for women. Female anatomy photography is a definite yes for them.
  • Last but not least is money. Female photography fetches lots of money. Photographers have been known to become wealthy quickly in this arena. As a result, female nude photographs are always in demand.

However, no matter what the reasons are for the photographer, it is the ultimate affect the photograph captures that is important.

Clothes on or no clothes, females have always been a favorite subject of photography. However, it takes talent and perseverance to get the exact expression that would make your photos world famous. If you need some tips about female form photography, then given below are few start ups that would hopefully help you along.

  • Find the right model for your photograph! Getting a subject for your photograph is a tough job for any photographer – especially if your aim is to take intimate photographs. However, if it is simply facial expressions that matter, then even your mother, daughter, wife or sister would do. It is the expression you want right? I’m sure it would be apparent, that if it involves some degree of nudity, then it is better you hire a professional model who would be more comfortable posing.
  • Background for stills. The background needs special attention when it comes to photographing female forms. Viewers usually relate better to a serene setting that matches her delicate lines. Usually, the studio is the best place to do the shoot as you can adjust your settings and be in control of lighting. If outdoor shooting is your interest, then you’ll need to be prepared with equipment for highlighting contrasts etc. Hint: A darker background gives better clarity to the female form.
  • Lights, Camera, and click. The lighting is of paramount vitality if you want your images to be perfect. It is always better to have the lighting focused on the female either from behind or the sides. Directly on the face would have two disadvantages; the light on the face would not capture the perfect expression which angled lighting or background lighting would provide. Moreover, light on the face would make any one uncomfortable and promote squinting!
  • Keep your distance!. When you are shooting your model, make sure you are away from her!! Use a variety of lenses. Avoid moving in too close when you are capturing the most detailed moments of her face, keeping some distance will help immensely. It would make her feel comfortable and result in better and more diversified expressions.

Simplified Studio Lighting

Our typical lighting scheme consists of three strobe lights with a forth strobe “hair light” used as needed. First, the key light is the main light source in the lighting scheme and is used to contour the face and add depth and interest to the subject. The key light is what enables the three dimensional subject to be rendered in a two dimensional plane, yet perceived as a three dimensional image. The key light in our studio’s light setup is mounted on a Studio Titan Side Kick stand. The beauty of this stand is that it is very stable, has lockable casters so it is easily repositioned, and the height of the key light is very easily adjustable with the “single touch” adjustable arm. The key light is usually the only strobe in our setup that is repositioned during the course of a photo shoot.

The key light is modified using a parabolic reflector, a shoot through umbrella or a reflecting umbrella, a soft box (several sizes may be used), or by other means, thereby achieving in each portrait the desired effect. A guideline to remember is: at a given distance between light source and subject, the smaller the light source, the harsher the incident light and the sharper (more contrast) the shadows. Choose the modifier accordingly to achieve the desired effect for your portrait (i.e. light modifiers in order of decreasing contrast: 6” parabolic reflector, 16” parabolic reflector, 40” reflecting umbrella, 40” shoot through umbrella, 3’x4’ softbox, 4’x6’ softbox). The key light is then metered (independently) to f11. This may be accomplished by adjusting the power to the strobe, and/or the distance between key light and subject.

During the photo shoot, the illumination of the subject will remain constant when you reposition the key light, as long as the distance between the key light and the subject remains constant. This simple fact is useful to keep in mind for one reason. It enables you to quickly relocate your key light for different desired effects without re-metering everything. Visualize your subject being at the hub of a wheel, the radius of the wheel being equal to the distance (between the key light and your subject) that gave you f11. The key light may be relocated to any position around the perimeter of the imaginary wheel, with the illumination on your subject remaining a constant f11.

Second, the fill light serves as contrast control by filling in the “sockets and pockets” of your subject. The fill light in our light set up is permanently positioned about 15 feet from the subject, directly out in front of the set. It is elevated to a height of about ten to eleven feet above the floor, so we are able to shoot from directly underneath the fill light if necessary. The fill light is diffused by a large soft box, and oriented (angled) to directly face the subject. It is typically metered (independently) to f5.6, by adjusting the power to the strobe. This gives a light ratio on your subject of about 1:4.

The third strobe in our studio light setup serves as the background light. The background light may be mounted on a short stand positioned directly behind the subject, and angled upward to illuminate the backdrop and eliminate any shadows behind the subject. Positioning the subject at least six feet from the background also helps to eliminate shadows on the background. For a vignette effect on a low key back ground use a small parabolic reflector and possibly a grid spot or barn doors to direct and focus the light where you want it. For a more evenly lit mid key backdrop substitute a soft box strip mounted on a boom stand, high and angled downward and toward the back drop. Typically for low key to mid key portraits we meter the background light to f5.6 or f8. This is a matter of preference depending on the desired effect. You can easily create elegant low to mid key portraits [] using this setup.

For super hi key shots, to get the snow white seamless background look, you must overexpose the background relative to the subject by two stops. For example [], if you meter your key to f8 you should meter the background to f16 to achieve the desired effect. The trick is to get your subject far enough out from the background so they don’t pick up too much reflected light and you are able to blow out the background while maintaining proper exposure on your subject. The fill is still metered one or two stops below the key to maintain a nice contrast ratio on your subject. Super hi key portraits may best be accomplished using two background lights, angled in on each side of the background. This gives a more evenly distributed background light.

The forth strobe often used in our studio light setup, is the hair light. It is used to separate the subject from the background and to accentuate the subject’s hair and shoulders. The hair light may be positioned low or high behind the subject depending on the desired effect, and modifiers such as a snoot or a grid spot may be used to direct and focus the light as desired. Whether or not the hair light is used depends on the subject’s hair color relative to the backdrop and on the desired effect for the portrait (e.g. dark hair disappears on a dark backdrop and requires the hair light as a separator)

Beyond posing your subject in a flattering way, lighting your subject is the single greatest skill you must master in order to create exceptional portraiture. Your lighting scheme does not have to be overly complex, and your equipment need not be the latest and greatest. However, you must develop a basic understanding of light contrast ratio and how to control the light, in order to masterfully create elegant and beautiful portraits. The lighting setup described above may be a good starting point. It is very simple to understand and easy to use, generally, only the key light is repositioned during the course of a photo shoot. From there, experiment and practice to achieve the results that you imagine. As always, good day and happy clicking.

Effective use of Flash

As with any other technology knowing how it works behind the scenes and what your options are can help in better utilizing it for your advantage. Flash photography has been around for more than a hundred years. It started with a dangerous and manually controlled technology that used a powder that was lit by either fire or electrical current. These flash solutions were both dangerous and hard to use since the flash was not automatically synchronized to the camera’s shutter. Modern flash units use an electronic flash tube that is synchronized with the camera’s shutter. When turning the flash on the photographer does not need to worry about flash timing – the camera takes care of it automatically.

There are two types of flash units: Internal and External. The internal flash unit is built-in to your camera. It can be controlled through the camera’s menus. Some low end cameras only allow the use of their built-in units. Some low end cameras and all high end cameras also allow the attachment of an external flash unit. External flash units are either attached to the camera’s body through a dedicated slide-in slot or are connected to the camera using a cable. They vary in strength – how much light can they generate for how long – and in mechanical characteristics – can they be tilted or skewed or are they fixed in relation to the camera’s body. Regardless of the connection type external flash units are electronically connected to the camera and are synchronized with the shutter.

When setting your flash unit to automatic mode the camera fires the flash in scenarios where not enough light is available. Many times the camera will make a wrong judgment and will either fire or not fire the flash when the opposite was needed. Also in some scenarios the camera will not be able to tell that firing the flash will actually result in a better photo. One problem when using a flash is washed out photos. When the flash is too strong or the object is too close to the camera the result is a washed out photo there are not enough details and the object appears to be too white or too bright. Another problem is a photo with too many details: in some scenarios the flash can create artificial shadows and lights which result in a photo that includes details that are exaggerated relative to their appearance in real life. For example when taking a photo of an older person skin wrinkles and imperfections can look much worse than they really are in real life.

It is important to know the limitations of the flash unit. Any flash unit has a certain amount of light that it can generate. Usually this amount can be translated to an effective range for using the flash. When trying to take a photo with the object too far – more than the flash unit range – the object will appear dark. When trying to take a photo with the object too close to the camera the object will be washed out or too white. It is important to know your flash range and make sure that your object is within that range.

If you need to take a photo with your objects not within your flash unit range it is better to turn off the flash completely and use a tripod with long exposure. Using the flash in such scenarios can fool the camera into setting a high shutter speed which results in a photo darker than a photo taken without using the flash at all.

In some scenarios the camera will not automatically fire the flash although using the flash would have resulted in a much better photo. One such scenario is taking a photo during day time when the object is shadowed. For example if the object is wearing a hat the hat can block the light from the object’s face or when the object is lit from the side the object’s nose can block the light creating a shadow. In such scenarios the flash unit can be set to “fill in” mode. The flash will be fired to fill-in those shadowed areas but it will not be fired strong enough to wash out the photo.

Another scenario is when the sun is behind the object. One example is taking a photo on the beach against a sunset. If taken without a fill-in flash the result will most likely be a silhouette of the object. If taken with a fill-in flash and the object in range the result will be a clear photo of the object against a sunset.